The 17 Best Summer Outdoor Activities In Philadelphia
Published Jun 3, 2016 4:00 AM
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by Regan Stephens
With a waterfront roller rink, free moonlit yoga classes, and a host of beer gardens all over town, make the most of summer in the City of Brotherly Love.
Visit All The Beer Gardens
Wherever you live in Philly, there’s bound to be a beer garden close by. Morgan’s Pier is situated right on the riverfront, with picnic tables and a beach-y vibe, while Independence Beer Garden — with its 40 taps and vast 20,000 square feet of space — is good for relaxing after a historic morning (the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall are across the street.) The pop-up park at The Oval near the Philadelphia Museum of Art includes a family-friendly beer garden, and this summer the SkyGarten opens on the 51st floor at 3 Logan Square. The loftiest of Philly’s many beer gardens, sip a German Pilsner while taking in the view from one of the city’s tallest buildings.
Watch A Movie On The Grass
Parks all over the city screen free movies throughout the summer, so grab your popcorn and a thermos of (cough) drinks, and be entertained with old and new classics like The Wizard of Oz and Pitch Perfect. This is last summer’s list, but it will give you an idea of where they happen around town.
The only thing missing from that outdoor movie screening is a full orchestral accompaniment. For a totally unique, super high-brow source of outdoor fun this summer, the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone will play while the Philadelphia Orchestra performs its score live. If you don’t love the boy wizard, (seriously, though?) other movies in the series include Back to the Future and The Lord of the Rings.
Voted the best hidden tourist attraction by Philadelphia Magazine, this petit sanctuary located inside Fairmount Park is mirrored after a classic Japanese house and gardens. Eat a picnic lunch surrounded by the viewing garden, courtyard garden, and koi pond, or attend a traditional tea ceremony demonstration.
Four evenings throughout the summer, Night Market brings together the city’s best restaurants and food trucks, local breweries, and live music. The roving market pops up in a different spot each time, so the convivial crowd can explore a new neighborhood while enjoying hometown beers and sampling tasty eats like hot biscuit sandwiches, fried cheese curds and artisanal ice pops.
Practice Your Downward Dog
Yoga with a breezy riverfront view beats your stuffy studio class any day. Yoga on the banks — near the Schuylkill River Banks boardwalk — is pay-what-you-wish, while class on the Race Street Pier is totally free mornings and evenings, with special twilight classes six times throughout the summer that coincide with the full moon.
On the second Wednesday of each month, step into Magic Gardens, Philly’s beloved, longstanding outdoor art installation on South Street, for Garden Sips. Pay $20, have a few drinks, listen to music, and let your surroundings inspire you with a retro craft project — this summer’s agenda includes beaded key chains, voodoo dolls, and shrinky dinks. Bonus: each event coincides with free street parking.
Spruce Street Harbor Park is one of Philly’s best summertime destinations. With free games (bean bag toss, giant chess, and tetherball, among others), waterfront bocce and shuffleboard, splash fountains, and paddleboard yoga on the Delaware River, there are a near endless string of activities to keep boredom at bay. But this is summer, after all, so there’s no shame in snagging one of 50 colorful, handmade hammocks and spending the afternoon lazing about. If you get up for one thing, let it be for a stop by Franklin Fountain. This outpost of Old City’s old fashioned ice cream shop offers all kinds of icy treats, but the waffle ice cream sandwich is only served at this location.
Join a city rec league and face off over Cornhole (aka the bean bag toss), kickball, dodgeball, and lots of other classically fun sports. After taking the game way too seriously, huddle up with your teammates for a thirst-quenching brew at one of the city’s many beer gardens.
Happy hump day, good people of Philadelphia. Every Wednesday evening throughout the summer, over 75 bars participate in Center City Sips, with drink and appetizer specials. Several spots have outdoor spaces, including Marathon, Opa, and the aforementioned Independence Beer Garden, so order up a super well-priced drink ($3 beers!) and toast to getting through half of the week.
It’s easy to forget that stars actually exist when you live in a city. Remind yourself with an evening viewing at Franklin Institute’s observatory, hosted by their Chief Astronomer. Start with a show at the Fels Planetarium, then head outside with a provided star map and marvel at stars, planets, and galaxies with one of the five rooftop telescopes.
Root for the home team at Citizens Bank Park, but even if baseball isn’t your thing, embrace the quintessential summertime experience. Ballpark refreshments are as much a part of the national pastime as team mascots (the lovable spaz known as the Phillie Phanatic, in this case), the 7th inning stretch, and, you know, the actual game. Grab a beer from local Victory Brewing Company and choose among hometown favorites like Tony Luke’s cheesesteaks, Chickie’s and Pete’s Crab Fries, Federal Donuts, and Rita’s Water Ice. (In Philly, Italian ice is called water ice. Get on board.)
Take advantage of some incredible bike paths all over the city with the new, totally affordable bike sharing program. From $15 per month (or, if you’re visiting, $8 per hour), grab an Indego bike at one of the many docking stations around town, pedal your heart out, and return the bike to any of the 70 stations peppered throughout the city. For a popular path that shows off the best of Philly, try the Kelly Drive loop. Starting at the art museum, ride along the Schuylkill River, taking in Boathouse Row and Center City along the way.
Billed as America’s oldest outdoor market, a visit to the 9th street Italian Market in South Philly is like stepping back in time. Browse the stalls for fresh produce, and duck into shops like Talluto’s for homemade ravioli and Di Bruno Bros., the city’s famous cheese mecca. Sample the delicious offerings before you buy, and also pick up cured meats, their signature cheese spreads (spicy Abbruzze is incredible), crackers, olives, and other provisions for a picnic at one of Philly’s many scenic parks.
Winter’s ski chalet-themed RiverRink transforms into a summer camp-inspired roller rink when the weather heats up. Don’t worry if you work up a sweat skating, there are plenty of ways to cool down — the lodge (with its boathouse vibe) is air conditioned, there are strategically-placed misters, and a wrap-around porch with rocking chairs for resting and sipping cold beers.
The 15 boathouses that make up historic Boathouse Row are more than a century old, and you should see them day or night, preferably both. The rowing clubs that occupy the houses host regattas all spring and summer (including the popular Dad Vail in May and the Independence Day Regatta) and they’re free to watch from the banks of the river. In the evening, the city lights up the row with LED lights that reflect on the water for one of Philadelphia’s most beautifully iconic tableaus.
Each summer, Eakins Oval and the surrounding lawns go from regular old (beautiful, historical) public space to colorful pop-up park with a ton of activities and events. There are themed days, food trucks, outdoor movies, a beer garden, and family-focused fun. Open to the public daily, stop by for a free game of giant chess, checkers, Connect Four, or Jenga.